7 DIY Ways to Catch Fish Bait

Bait shop closed or too far away? Here are some proven bait collecting methods to remember for future fishing trips

7 DIY Ways to Catch Fish Bait
7 DIY Ways to Catch Fish Bait

With all of life’s modern conveniences, it’s easy to forget how to do things the old-fashioned way. Take fishing, for example. Unlike most of Grandma and Grandpa’s contemporaries, today’s anglers can stop by the local Wal-Mart, bait shop or sporting goods store when they need live bait for tempting their favorite fishies. That’s a good thing because most modern fishermen don’t have a clue how to catch their own bait the way their ancestors did.

There are times, however—when we’re fishing in the wilderness or run out of bait while fishing far from the nearest town, for instance—it sure is handy to know some tricks for wrangling our own fish enticements. And those who know some good bait-catching methods can save lots of money in this day and age when worms often cost a quarter apiece and a dozen minnows may set you back several dollars.

If you’d like to learn the lost art of bait catching, read on. The tips and tricks that follow may seem old fashioned, but they work great in a pinch and can help you cut bait costs tremendously.

A Loaf of Crickets

You probably thought a loaf of fresh-baked bread was only good for one thing—eating. But here’s something else you can use it for. Next time you’re camping a long way from the nearest bait shop, turn an unsliced loaf of bread into a cricket trap that works while you sleep. All you have to do is slice the loaf in half lengthwise, hollow out the middle and then put the two halves back together with some string or rubber bands. Punch a hole from the outside to the inside on one end of the loaf, and then place the bread in a grassy area in the afternoon. When you check it the next morning, it should contain several crickets for fish bait. Pretty simple, huh?


Load Up On Leeches

When you’re fishing for catfish, walleyes or bass, one of the best live baits to use is leeches. Yep, those ugly little bloodsuckers make great fish bait. You may be wondering, though, how do I get leeches? In some states, you can buy them from bait dealers, but in many areas, you’ll have to collect your own. You can find them in ponds with lots of cattails or lily pads, and you can catch them like this. Take a big hunk of fresh beef liver, stuff it in a burlap bag, tie off the end with a piece of rope and toss the bag into shallow water. Leeches will squirm through the loose fabric to reach the bloody liver, and when you come back and pull it in … bingo! You’ve got fish bait.


Cast Nets, Shad and Big-River Bruisers

When you’re fishing a long way from the nearest bait shop, sometimes you need a way to catch your own bait fast. One way to do this is throwing a cast net, a method that’s been used for more than 3,000 years. Throw one in the right spot, and you can bring in dozens of shad or other fish that make great bait for catfish, striped bass and other big sportfish. Throwing one takes some practice, but once you’ve learned how to do it, a cast net is hard to beat for catching fresh bait and lots of it.

Fiddlin’ for Worms

Need some worms for your next backcountry fishing trip? You could dig your own, but that’s a lot of work. Instead, you might want to try an old-time way called “fiddling” or “grunting.” First, you drive a wooden stake in the ground in moist, loamy soil. Then you take an old-fashioned hand saw and rub it back and forth across the top of the stake. An ax head or other piece of metal can be used, too. Rubbing the top of the stake makes the wood vibrate, and the vibrations drive the worms crazy. If you’ve picked a good spot, worms will start popping up out of the ground all around the stake. Instant fish bait and it didn’t cost you a dime.

Rocking in the River

Wade fishing in a small stream away from the city is a really fun way to spend a summer day. Before you start fishing though, you might want to wade around for another reason: to catch some bait. Carefully turn over rocks on the bottom, and look for insect nymphs underneath. There are lots of kinds you might find—hellgrammites, caddisfly larvae, mayfly and stonefly nymphs, and the nymphs of dragonflies and damselflies. And you might catch a crayfish or two while you’re at it. All of these are great baits for catching trout, rock bass, smallmouths and other fish. And because they come right from the stream you’re fishing, they’re sure to be the right bait for catching a whopper.

Shell Game

Lots of anglers never think about it, but freshwater snails, clams and mussels make great baits for redear sunfish, catfish, drum and other fish, especially when you’re fishing in the backcountry where other baits may be hard to find. To gather some, all you have to do is wade around and look for them buried in the bottom or clinging to plants and rocks. Carry a container along to put them in. When fishing with snails, crush them before putting them on a hook. Mussels can be opened with a knife and cut into small pieces. Cast the bait out, let it sink to the bottom and get ready. Fish love mussels and snails like a Frenchman loves escargot. It won’t be long before you’re fighting a nice fish.


A Blanket Full of Hoppers

Live grasshoppers and katydids are among the best baits available. Smaller varieties are irresistible to trout, bluegills and redears, and a big one floating on the water lures everything from bucketmouth bass to pot-bellied catfish. Try this old-fashioned method to catch all the hoppers you need. Spread a fuzzy flannel blanket in a grassy field and drive the hoppers to it. The stickers on the bugs’ feet get caught in the fabric. Just pluck the bait and put it in a cricket cage. For real fun, dispense with sinkers and bobbers when fishing these guys. Use a long pole to flip the hooked bug out on the water like a little dry fly and prepare for action. Dynamite!

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

Multiple time FLW Costa winner Jessi Mizell is no stranger to catching big Florida bass on a popping frog. As he tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead, with the new 13 Fishing Omen Black baitcasting rod, the job just got easier.

Costa

Costa's Award Winning Waterwoman Sunglasses

Costa's Amanda Sabin tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead about all of the great features that made the new Waterwoman frame a big winner at the 2019 ICAST show as well as out on the water.

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance's Lucas Steward shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead what all of the fuss is about in the brand new Ghost trolling motor being brought to market by the Tulsa, Okla.-based fishing equipment manufacturer.

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

With the company's heavy involvement in initiatives like Kick the Plastic and Captains for Clean Water campaigns, Costa's Amanda Sabin tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead all about the sunglass maker's unwavering commitment to help the freshwater and saltwater environment.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers. Striper & Hybrid

3 Deadly Bait Rigs For Stripers

J.B. Kasper

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers.

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies. Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures? Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range

See More Trending Articles

More Fishing

The area offers quaint towns and scenic views, but it's the fantastic smallmouth fishing that makes it an irresistible stop for bass anglers. Fishing

Midwest Bass Mecca: Door County, Wis.

Mike Pehanich - June 23, 2020

The area offers quaint towns and scenic views, but it's the fantastic smallmouth fishing that...

An hour here, 30 minutes there, 10 casts after work; sometimes that's all it takes. Stories

Perspective: Satisfy Fishing Passion When You Can

Adam Heggenstaller - June 24, 2020

An hour here, 30 minutes there, 10 casts after work; sometimes that's all it takes.

There aren't many better ways to spend a summer night than skewering fish in the shallows. Playbook

Bowfishing from the Bank (Video)

Game & Fish Staff - June 24, 2020

There aren't many better ways to spend a summer night than skewering fish in the shallows.

Wonders of Wildlife, created by Johnny Morris, has been nominated; deadline to vote is July 6. News

Your Vote Counts for 'America's Best Aquarium 2020'

Game & Fish Staff

Wonders of Wildlife, created by Johnny Morris, has been nominated; deadline to vote is July 6.

See More Fishing

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now